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Veteran Defencemen The Montreal Canadiens Could Target This Summer

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Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens will be looking to add some experience on the blueline this summer after the conclusion of a probable Jeff Petry trade leading up to free agency.

Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has been open about the possibility of moving Jeff Petry during this offseason, but also mentioned the need to add a veteran presence on the backend to replace Petry’s experience. Taking to the airwaves of TSN690, Hughes indicated that it was unlikely that the Montreal Canadiens could be going big game hunting this summer, but would look to acquire some veterans to help the youngsters on his defence.

“When we talk about a Jeff Petry, if we moved him, I indicated that we would lose an experienced defenceman. We don’t want to put our young defencemen in a situation where we’re putting them in situations that they’re not necessarily ready for, and we don’t want to do anything to impede their development. So, if a player like Jeff Petry gets moved, with that will come Cap flexibility, but also a requirement on our part to bring somebody on with some level of experience.”

The departure of Jeff Petry would leave Joel Edmundson and David Savard as the only true veterans on the club. With the Canadiens unlikely to roll with three rookies on their backend all year long, the necessity to go and not only replace Petry, but also add a 7th defenceman with experience will be one of Hughes’ biggest priorities.

The Montreal Canadiens general manager has already confirmed he will not be seeking the five-star free agent this offseason due to Salary Cap concerns, which will automatically rule out a player like Kris Letang. To give you an idea of what Hughes could do to add some leadership and experience on his backend, here are some of the best options for him to consider this summer as stopgaps.

 

 

Anton Stralman

Stralman would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Montreal Canadiens, as he can still play upwards of 20 minutes a game while providing excellent guidance and leadership to the emerging youngsters in the organization. The soon-to-be 36-year-old would likely look to sign a short-term contract and wouldn’t be used in top offensive situations; leaving that role to younger players like Justin Barron or Jordan Harris to further their development.

Stralman’s $5.5M contract is expiring this season after finishing it out with the Arizona Coyotes. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see a player of his calibre sign with Montreal on a one or two-year deal in the $2-2.75M range to close out his career.

Jan Rutta

Jan Rutta has been a consistent member of a championship-winning Tampa Bay Lightning over the last couple of seasons and could bring that Championship pedigree to the Montreal Canadiens. The soon-to-be 32-year-old has experience playing in all situations and may simply be priced out of the Tampa Bay Salary structure in favour of cheaper alternatives like Cal Foote.

Rutta could provide the Canadiens would a solid stop-gap on the right side of their defence, all while being able to contribute to the success of their transition. He’d likely be looking at a two or three-year deal with a bump in salary from his current $1.3M contract, but he would likely be worth every penny.

Justin Braun

Justin Braun would not significantly improve the Montreal Canadiens’ defensive brigade, but he would certainly add some much needed toughness on the backend and could protect many of the youngsters that will be rotating into the lineup. Braun has gone deep into the playoffs in his career, having played over 100 post-season games during his 12-year career. His leadership and physical qualities would make him an ideal stopgap for a few years, and he could easily be moved in the last year of his contract for an extra asset.

Braun’s physical and punishing style could be of value slotting him next to a faster and more mobile player like Jordan Harris, as it would give Harris the freedom to express himself a little more offensively without the fear of retribution from the offensive team. Braun’s salary on his most recent contract was $1.8M over two years, and one could expect his next contract to be pretty similar in length and value.

Chris Wideman

Chris Wideman was a great team player for the Canadiens this year and often stood up for his younger teammates when the going got rough. He was one of the Montreal Canadiens’ most productive defencemen offensively and had great chemistry with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki on the powerplay.

When it comes to Wideman, it’ll all come down to salary demands, as the 32-year-old defenceman put up a career-high 27 points in 64 games. After having come back to the NHL after a brief stint in the KHL, the offensive defenseman will likely look to cash in on what was a very productive season in his NHL return. If Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens could make it work, bringing back Wideman could work.

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